25th Anniversary Statement

Smiling Tracey Williams against garden backdrop

urban university founder Tracey Williams

Many of you know urban furniture and boutique, the store on Grand Ave and Tracey Williams, who operates it.  But do you know her social entrepreneur story, the many facets of her work, past, present and future?   Come join the 25th anniversary party on Saturday, February 25th.  Festivities will culminate at a ticketed event at the store between 5:30PM and 7:00PM, with refreshments, birthday cake and a fabulous neighborhood vocalist, Zania Valentina entertaining. Tracey will say a few words, too.

“urban university” (uu), was a concept designed by Tracey to stand as a hope-filled place for low-income individuals to be seen and heard and where the skills needed for them to step into new, unknown worlds of demands, would be taught from experience and with empathy.  Teaching these skills at a workforce development program in San Francisco during welfare reform, she emerged as the founder of uu, in 1998 and, without traditional business capital, was powered solely by the success of her training methodology;  as a result the revenue generated was used to grow the organization over time.

The second component, an employment social enterprise,  was added in 2009 out of the necessity to move participants into the workplace faster.  In this space, learning meets real work experience for single mothers transitioning from public assistance. Working on the frontlines in close proximity to the community, Tracey can see the needs as they arise and tackles them, resiliently. The third component was ‘a miracle,’ and added in 2014, right at the time when 100% of uu participants were experiencing homelessness and lodging was donated by an incredibly generous, anonymous soul who recognized that housing could be helpful to the single mothers and children.   Just having acquired retail operations mastery, Tracey now had to learn how to operate a transitional housing program. 

Inspired by uu’s mission to build pathways to social and economic mobility, Tracey simply rolls up her sleeves and goes to work. Along the way, she sets a powerful example for the single mothers she serves every day.  Of course there is so much more to the story, namely her own story.  Led by uu’s Imagine campaign to celebrate its 25 years and new strategic plan for a bright, reimagined future ahead, this creative, smart, compassionate woman is contemplating a fourth component that will bring all of the pieces together – a creative community space for learning, entrepreneurship and the arts.

Meet and Greet Tracey at the party, in person or virtually.  You can sign up here.